Chertoff's fixes for FEMA inadequate

Homeland Security Sec. Michael Chertoff's plans for fixing FEMA, moves that include beefing up vendor databases and claims management software, are necessary but inadequate experts tell the Washington Post.

Homeland Security Sec. Michael Chertoff's plans for fixing FEMA, moves that include beefing up vendor databases and claims management software, are necessary but inadequate experts tell the Washington Post.

Several experts and officials in touch with the Bush administration say the changes proposed Monday -- adding reconnaissance teams, improving vendor databases and strengthening claims management -- only scratch the surface of needed changes.

What Chertoff announced "was a necessary step but not sufficient. I expect him to go further," said Richard A. Falkenrath, a former Bush White House official and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was an original architect of the Homeland Security Department. "It's cultural change [with FEMA] and leadership, and they need more resources, there's just no question."

James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation agreed that the administration's preview Monday "doesn't really solve the problem," which is the ability to push help in the critical first 72 hours of a crisis and unify the government under one command. Both tasks are now beyond FEMA's power, he said.

The real question is whether to shift FEMA from what Falkenrath called "a very pliant posture" of waiting for state and local leaders to ask for help in a disaster, to a more aggressive role without trampling on governors and mayors.